Friday, January 29, 2010

Why 10-mans Can't Have Nice Things

With the recent announcement of the highly coveted Invincible mount, and the subsequent disappointment after finding out that it only drops from Heroic 25-man, I decided to throw my hat in the ring with my own opinions on the matter and pose some possible solutions.

Reading over this thread (and ignoring the requisite trolling that always accompanies posts like that) there seems to be five main issues that 10-man raiders have brought up in regard to the difference in philosophy between the two raid sizes. It's probably worth breaking them down so that they can be addressed separately rather than as one big lump.

1. Legendaries are only available in 25-mans. 

While unfortunate, this decision does make sense. Short of sharing lockouts between 10- and 25-mans (which Blizzard seems reluctant to do), there isn't a really easy way to solve this without allowing for 25-man guilds to just run 10-mans in order to get them. This really doesn't strike me as a huge deal. Legendaries tend to represent a group effort more than anything, and 25 people putting one together does seem a bit more "legendary". My only real complaint is that in many cases legendaries tend to have some lore attached to them, which would be neat to experience in some way in 10-man content as well. Quel'Delar was a pretty cool step towards that type of lore-based weapon for the masses, and hopefully one that Blizzard continues.

2. Patterns and crafting materials don't drop in Normal 10-mans.
This argument really doesn't make much sense to me. These patterns are for items that are the same ilevel as Normal 25-man and Heroic 10-man gear. They drop regularly in the Heroic 10-man version of instances and that seems appropriate. In ICC they even made the patterns and materials immediately available through rep or badges. I imagine Primordial Saronite will drop from Heroic 10-man bosses as well to help expedite the crafting process.

3. Cool aesthetic items are more readily available in 25-mans.

This is the issue that really sparked this discussion, since Invincible falls into this category. The main argument is that in ToC, there was a similar reward for completing Tribute to Insanity in either 10-man or 25-man Heroic. A similar suggestion has been made to allow guilds that complete Heroic 10-man ICC in appropriate gear to also have a shot at the mount, which seems like a reasonable request. The main thing I could foresee being an issue in this regard is that it may not actually be technically feasible. The ToGC rewards were based on the attempt counter, and the ilevel based achievements (Herald of the Titan and Tribute to Dedicated Insanity) are a one-and-done deal. However, assuming that Blizzard is able to track the ilevel of the raid on every kill, I don't understand why a similar reward for dedicated 10-man raiders could not be implemented. While this is hardly a new development (since the Mimiron’s Head mount from Yogg+0 was also 25-man only), I think the reason it become a bigger complaint is primarily due to the lore association of Invincible. Blizzard dangled him in front of the player-base with a small story signifying his importance to the lore and then said that he was only available to one set of its progression-oriented raiders. It's hard to not feel slighted in that context.

4. 25-man guilds use 10-mans for more badges and extra practice.
This is bit of a non-issue for me. I agree with Blizzard’s stance on keeping raiding options open for players. If 25-man raiders want to kick back and do some 10-mans in their free time, go for it. Considering that the badges are used primarily for ilevel 264 gear, I don’t see any issue with them getting it quicker. We’ll eventually be swimming in badges with nothing to spend them on in a few months anyway. The practice element is more of a result of Blizzard’s insistence on using attempt counters than anything else. Again, I don’t see much issue with it. It’s not any different than using alts to do the same thing, so it’s hardly an issue that would be solved by sharing lockouts between the raids anyway.

5. 10-man itemization is less interesting and has holes.

This one actually seems somewhat straightforward to address without resulting in any more work for the item developers than their current system. One of the most innovative things Blizzard did with the last two tiers is develop one set of items for each dungeon and then just create a second "Heroic" version with higher ilevel stats. It's a fantastic idea to allow them to more easily incorporate full hard-mode rewards into their design. The main thing I don't quite understand and would seem to solve a lot of problems is that instead of making a 10-man set of drops and a 25-man set of drops why they couldn't just make a Normal set of drops and a Heroic set of drops. 

For example: rather than ilvl 251 Abracadaver dropping from 10-man Festergut and ilvl 264 Abracadaver Heroic dropping from Heroic 10-man Festergut, the ilvl 251 would drop from Normal 10-man Festergut and the ilvl 264 version would drop from Normal 25-man Festergut. Similarly, Heroic 10-man and Heroic 25-man Festergut would share a loot table with differing ilevel drops. 

Doing so, the ilevel disparity between 10- and 25-mans would continue to exist to maintain the higher reward structure for 25-mans, but there would no longer be holes in itemization existing only in one raiding progression path (usually 10-man) and it would also lower the incentive/necessity of 25-man raiders to run 10-mans for those items that fill the few holes in 25-man itemization (usually trinkets with powerful procs). This also lets Blizzard put the "neat" items (like weapons with procs) as Heroic rewards that would be accessible to both progression paths but in differing power.

And yet despite all of these “issues”, I still would never consider going back to 25-man raiding. 10-man raiding hits the sweet spot of being able to have enough people that coordination and strategy are still a challenge, while maintaining a strong level of accountability for every raider in the group. To me, there just is no comparison.

Monday, January 25, 2010

1% Wipes

After an absolutely heartbreaking 0.8% wipe to Blood Queen Lana'thel on our last attempt this week. It brought back some (painful) memories of past fights that came down to the wire. They've been more rare in Wrath of the Lich King, but anyone who ever did Vaelastrasz in Blackwing Lair almost certainly has at least one story of a 1% wipe. He was notorious for how long that last percent could take (likely because he started at 30%, so 1% was actually 3.33% of his relevant health).

At the same time though, we can probably all think of at least one case where everyone is dying and in the midst of all the chaos a small portion of the raid manages to squeak out the last bits of damage to finish the boss. It's funny how a few thousand hit points can change everything.

For fun, I managed to find this old screenshot from a long, long time ago which still cracks me up whenever I look at it. You can't get much closer than that.

Friday, January 22, 2010

RP: Harvest Festival

This is an idea I had back during the Harvest Festival, but never got around to writing up. The idea of honouring one of the greatest orcs in Warcraft lore with candles always struck me as a bit underwhelming, so I felt that it was worth giving him a more appropriate remembrance. It should be noted that Rul actually does have Gorehowl in his bank just because it has so much lore significance.

Warning, the content is slightly graphic, so if gore bothers you, it might be worth skipping this post.

* * *

The crisp, autumn air was marred by the acrid stench of sulfur. Demon stink. Rul tried his best to ignore the horrible smell as he approached the center of Demon Fall Canyon. It had been seven years since the defeat of the pitlord Mannoroth and still the land was scorched by the demon's final death throes. In the middle of the crater a pillar of rock had been erected, as if to taunt the few demons that continued to plague the area. It served as a memorial to Grommash Hellscream, the warrior who ended the Burning Legion’s command of the orcs, and the former leader of the Warsong clan. A number of small gifts and offerings had been placed around the monument. Candles. Hmph.

Rul dismounted from the back of his riding worg and gave it a quick pat behind the ears. “That’s a good girl, Grima. Now you stay here while I go find an offering more befitting of the Chieftain.” Grima let out a reassuring growl as she sank back on her haunches, warily eyeing the shadows for any sign of demonic activity.

Rul shrugged off his backpack and grinned. Hunting time.

* * *

Rul grunted as he heaved the still-breathing carcass of the white buck to the ground beneath the monument. It was alive, barely, but at least it had stopped struggling so much after he had broken its legs. Wiping his brow, he stepped over to where his belongings lay beside Grima and carefully withdrew an axe wrapped in canvas. As he removed the cloth, the dim twilight gleamed off the weapon’s edge.

Gorehowl hungered.

Sensing its fate, the buck attempted to struggle to its feet to no avail. Drinking in the beast’s terror, Rul raised the axe above his head. He could feel the weapon's rage, its desire to kill. With bloodlust coursing through his veins, he let out an earth-shattering roar as the blade fell.

Gorehowl fed.

Lok’tar ogar, Chieftain. The Warsong is supreme!

Friday, January 15, 2010

LFM: A Guide to Finding New Guilds

Having had to seek out a new guild recently, I’ve decided to make a quick guide detailing the process and hopefully serve as a reference to anyone else who finds themselves looking for a new home. As a former recruitment officer in previous raiding guilds, I am also going to offer some commentary on what I used to look for from applicants which may also prove helpful.

1. Identify your schedule
First, you want to figure out which days you’ll be able to comfortably raid, what times and how many total hours per week. You want to make this as specific as possible. The reason I recommend doing this before looking for guilds is because you want to avoid applying to any guild that you can’t give a full commitment. Speaking as a former recruitment officer, nothing made me hesitate on an application more than someone who was applying with a guaranteed absence on one of our regular raiding days.

2. Identify your goals
Next, you want to determine what it is that you’re really looking for from a raiding guild. Are you looking to join a 25-man guild fighting for world firsts? Or maybe you’re disenchanted with the large groups and want to find a solid 10-man strict guild? Perhaps you’re even looking to get involved with raiding for the first time? Whatever your ideals, it’s important to make sure you know what it is you’re looking for and what you’re comfortable with. Keep in mind that your schedule will also likely play a key role in what types of guilds you’ll be able to find. If you’re only able to raid six hours per week, it’s unreasonable to expect to join a guild aiming for world firsts since most of those guilds raid upwards of twenty hours per week (while they’re going for the first kills anyway). Be realistic.

For me, I set out looking for a solid 10-man strict guild on a Normal server that seemed to be completing a good portion of the hard modes and raided 2-3 nights a week for roughly 9-12 hours total. Don’t be afraid to make this as specific as possible; with the number of guilds that exist today, there’s a good chance you can find exactly what you’re looking for.

3. Research, research, research
Now that you have a nice list of your available raiding times and guild traits you’re looking for, it’s time to find a guild that matches the profile. There are a number of solid sites that help in narrowing down your selection. First, if you’re a progression-oriented person like I am, it helps to take a look at the ranking sites such as WoWProgress or (especially if you’re looking for a 10-man guild) GuildOx. Personally, I’ve always preferred to find guilds that are either at my own progression pace or no more than 1-2 kills ahead or behind. In the past, I’ve joined guilds that were far ahead of my current progression as well as helped start fresh guilds from scratch that had to do everything all over again. Neither situation was particularly fun; I either missed out on the excitement of downing difficult bosses for the first time (plus the added frustration of trying to learn fights that everyone else in the raid takes for granted) or I got bored re-learning the same content over again with new folk (mind you this was in vanilla so it was more Molten Core and Blackwing Lair). While it’s usually a good sign if a guild is slightly ahead of your own experience (since it hints at a more efficient raid group overall), there are times when a guild slightly behind could be worth taking a look, especially if they have had a recent spike in progress or are accomplishing their progress in less raid time.

A quick Google search on a guild’s name and server should turn up their website. I usually take it as a bad sign if it doesn’t – it means that they either don’t have one or that they don’t have enough relevant information on it for it to be listed. Now, I’ll admit to being a bit biased in this regard since I put a lot of work into maintaining my own previous guild’s website, but a guild’s website serves as one of the most important recruitment tools that they have. It immediately acts as a first impression, both aesthetically and in the information it conveys. When visiting a guild website, within minutes you should be able to find a) their recent progression, b) their current roster needs, c) their raiding schedule and guild policies, and d) their application process. If you can’t find all of these things quickly, then I tend to view it as an organizational failure on the part of the guild’s leadership, which reflects infavourably on their ability to run the guild as a whole. It may sound harsh, but let’s be honest, first impressions work both ways; if a guild isn’t making the effort to impress their recruits, why should recruits make a similar effort in their applications?

Furthermore, guild websites act as a conduit of offline (well, off-WoW) discussion between members. Whether they are organizing raids, discussing strategies or even just particpating in friendly banter, these types of conversations between guildmates are conducive to a positive raid environment.

You can also find lists of guilds specifically recruiting by visiting websites such as Elitist Jerks, MMO-Champion, World of Raids or the official recruitment forums. EJ particularly tends to have a very good signal to noise ratio, especially if you’re looking toward the high-end of progression. Again, you want to be able to find the vital information in these posts as easily as possible. You should have a pretty good idea what the guild is all about from the post. If not, it again speaks poorly towards the organizational ability of the officers. (Yes, I have high expectations of guild leaders, but I also went through all this effort myself as an officer, so I feel it’s warranted).

Now that you’ve found the guild’s website, which hopefully contains all of the information that you need to know, you can start to get a feel for whether they’re the right place for you. First, do their raid times match up? Next, do their policies seem fair? Be honest with yourself; if anything makes you feel a bit uncomfortable, then maybe it might be worth taking a look at some other guilds first. (Personally, loot councils always makes me a bit wary due to the potential corruption I’ve witnessed in the past. I prefer transparent loot systems myself.) Sometimes guilds that seem like a really good fit aren’t specifically recruiting for your class. However, it’s not a bad idea to keep them on the list regardless. Truly exceptional raiders (which you are, right?) will very rarely get turned down by a guild, so it’s worth keeping them in mind.

You want to look up as many of relevant guilds as possible. Expect it to take a few hours if not days. Don’t be in a rush! Taking your time with the process is probably one of the best recommendations I can give you. At the end, you should have a list of around 5-10 guilds that you feel would be the best fit, possibly even ranked in order of preference.

4. Contact the guilds
This may seem like an optional step, but I’ve always found it to be really helpful both as an applicant and an officer. I recommend making an alt on the servers of each of the guilds on your short list (if the guild is already on the same server as your main, that’s a bonus) and get in contact with one of their officers. The names of the officers to contact will likely be on their website, but if not, you can always use the Armory. Since you already know their raid times, a good time to get in touch with an officer is usually around 45-30 minutes before they raid. Even though they may be too busy to talk to you right away, it will allow you to arrange a time that is more suitable to them. This contact is a great way to learn more about the guild, and hopefully also make a good first impression.

5. Apply!
By now, you probably have a good idea on which guilds you are most interested in joining, and which ones also seemed to be most interested in you (contacting them goes both ways after all). I like to only apply to one guild at a time, but this is mostly personal preference. Now, your initial reaction might be to go to their website and start writing up the application immediately in your browser. No. Stop. Open up a word processor instead and copy the questions over. Now, sit back and think about the purpose behind the questions and why they are there. The guild wants to know more about you, so the more you tell them, the more you'll be able to stand out from the crowd. A lot of guild applications ask pretty simple questions; that doesn’t mean you need to write equally simple answers! If there is one thing you can take away from this guide it is this: taking the time to write multiple sentence responses will make your application stand out more than any other single thing you can do. I’m not even kidding. Receiving a well-written, eloquent application is so rare that any recruitment officer worth their salt would be doing their guild a disservice to ignore it (assuming that the answers are actually appropriate of course). As sad as it is, maybe one out of every twenty application fit that criteria, and that might be generous. I know it might feel a bit like an essay, but it is seriously worth the effort. I wrote my application to Vortex over the course of three days and I’ve been told that it’s one of the best they’ve ever received.

After you’ve taken your time to write up your outstanding application, it’s time to wait. Usually if you’ve done a good job, the wait won’t be very long, especially if you’ve already taken the time to talk to an officer beforehand and they were expecting it. Guilds differ on the next step of their application process, but if it’s not part of their policy, I like to request a talk on Vent and maybe listening in on one of their raids before I consider transferring over. I used to always run quick interviews on Vent with potential applicants when I was recruiting, and I find it helps to get a better feel on a person’s personality. Similarly, I spent some time talking to Vortex officers and listening in on a raid (if I remember correctly, it was their first One Light kill) before moving over to Turalyon.

If you haven’t heard back within 3 days, it might be worth dropping the officer you talked to a line. Some guilds have a policy of not getting back to applicants they’ve decided not to accept (I don’t agree with it personally and never did that myself, but I can understand it), but there may be other extenuating circumstances regarding the lack of contact. It definitely can’t hurt to ask; at the least, it shows further interest in their guild. If the guild denies your application, continue with the process with other guilds on your list. Eventually you should find one that is as much a match for you as you are to them.

Good luck and happy hunting!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Welcome to Ancestral Knowledge!

Welcome to Ancestral Knowledge, a World of Warcraft blog dedicated to all things shaman. I’m Rul and I’ll be your guide.

What You Can Expect to Find Here
This blog is heavily inspired by Dreambound Druid, created and maintained by my guildmate and fellow healer, Kaelynn. I hope to blend the same mix of class commentary, raiding discussion and reflections on life in general. I may even toss in some RP (lol) as the mood strikes!

About Me
I am currently living in Vancouver, British Columbia and am working towards a graduate degree in game design. I have been playing WoW for just over 5 years now and have been raiding for a majority of that time. I have played almost exclusively in a healer role, starting as a priest before switching to a shaman shortly before the release of The Burning Crusade. During my time as a raider, I have served a significant portion of it as either an officer or a guild leader of successful progression-oriented 40- and 25-man raiding guilds, and have more recently made the switch to focus on small-scale content. I am currently an active member of Vortex, one of the top 10-man strict guilds in the US.

While I am intimately familiar with the Restoration tree (including many of the changes made to it over the years), with the advent of dual-specializations I have started to become a lot more comfortable with the Elemental side of the class as well. I’m still learning the ropes when it comes to maximizing DPS, but I’m coming along well and have a pretty good handle on the basic mechanics of the spec.

Thanks for visiting and hopefully you enjoy your stay!